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30 Most Tragic Movie True Stories

Heavenly Creatures (1994)

The Tragic True Story: In 1954, teenagers Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme murdered Pauline’s mother, Honorah Rieper during a daytrip in Victoria Park, New Zealand.

Movie Version: Peter Jackson’s groundbreaking examination of Pauline and Juliet’s friendship, inspired by Pauline’s diary and interviews that Jackson and co-writer Fran Walsh conducted with many people who knew the pair.

Saddest Moment: Pauline and Juliet actually carry out the horrific act.

Life Is Beautiful (1997)

The Tragic True Story: Director/star Roberto Benigni was inspired by his father’s true story. Benigni Sr was incarcerated at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp for three years before Roberto was born.

Movie Version: Oscar-winning drama about a father and son who are incarcerated at a concentration camp. In order to stop his son being scared, Guido Orefice (Benigni) pretends it’s all just a game.

Saddest Moment:
Guido is led off to be executed by a Nazi soldier, but still pretends it’s a big joke to his son, who’s hiding in a sweatbox.

Mississippi Burning (1988)

The Tragic True Story : In 1964, three American civil rights workers – who had been working for the rights of African Americans to vote – were shot dead in Mississippi by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Movie Version: Loosely based on that real-life case, this ‘60s-set drama follows FBI agents Alan Ward (Willem Dafoe) and Rupert Anderson (Gene Hackman), who head to Mississippi to investigate the murders of three men.

Saddest Moment: Deputy Sheriff Clinton Pell (Brad Dourif) assaults his wife.

Michael Collins (1996)

The Tragic True Story: Irish revolutionary Michael Collins played a role in the Easter Uprising and went on to become Minister for Finance before he was ambushed and killed in August 1922.

Movie Version: Golden Lion winning drama directed by Neil Jordan, with Liam Neeson taking the title role.

Saddest Moment: Collins dies during the Irish Civil War, shot dead during an ambush.

Changeling (2008)

The Tragic True Story: Between 1926 and 1928, a number of young boys were abducted and murdered around Los Angeles and Riverside County. The crimes were later discovered to have all been committed by ranch owner Gordon Stewart Northcott.

Movie Version: Angelina Jolie stars as Christine Collins, a single mother whose nine-year-old son Walter disappears. However, when the police tell her they’ve found her son, the boy who’s returned may not actually be Walter.

Saddest Moment: A boy who was kidnapped and escaped reveals just what happened to him – and Christine’s son.

Philomena (2013)

The Tragic True Story: In 1951, Philomena Lee became pregnant out of wedlock and was sent to the Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea in Ireland. Her son was taken away from her and as an elderly woman, she attempted to track him down again.

Movie Version: Steve Coogan adapts Martin Sixsmith’s The Lost Child Of Philomena Lee, with Judi Dench on fine form as the titular character.

Saddest Moment: Philomena discovers that her son is dead – he died eight years ago, and now she’ll never have the chance to meet him.

Beyond The Hills (2012)

The Tragic True Story : In 2005, Maricica Irina Cornici moved in to the Tanacu monastery and was quickly diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Father Corogeanu, though, believed that Cornici was possessed by Satan and set about performing an exorcism. A few days later she was dead.

Movie Version: Rather than a feeble Exorcist -alike, Cristian Mungiu’s film (based on the book by Tatiana Niculescu Bran) is a spare, thoughtful and tense look at religion and belief.

Saddest Moment: Let’s just say the movie follows the real case quite closely when it comes to the tragedy…

Gorillas In The Mist (1988)

The Tragic True Story: American zoologist Dian Fossey spent 18 years studying gorillas in Rwanda. In 1985, she was murdered and the case remains unsolved to this day.

Movie Version: Sigourney Weaver stars as Fossey in a film set almost entirely in the Congo.

There, she gains unprecedented access to the communities of mountain gorillas – but her work is constantly interrupted by violent poachers.

Saddest Moment: Fossey is laid to rest in the same cemetery as the gorillas that were murdered.

Into The Wild (2007)

The Tragic True Story: In the book of the same name, Jon Krakauer tells the true story of Christopher McCandless, a post-grad who gave away his $24,000 college fund and went to live in the wild. He died of starvation after 100 days.

Movie Version: Gorgeous drama directed by Sean Penn, with a fantastic score courtesy of Eddie Vedder. Emile Hirsch plays McCandless.

Saddest Moment: McCandless makes an abandoned bus into his home but his health slowly deteriorates as he fails to find food. He dies in his sleeping bag.

Bonnie & Clyde (1967)

The Tragic True Story: Between 1931 and 1934, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow became public enemies when they went on a robbing spree that came to a tragic head when they were ambushed and killed by police in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.

Movie Version: Classic, boundary-pushing crime drama directed by Arthur Penn, starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as the titular duo. With its unprecedented depiction of sex and violence, it changed the face of cinema forever.

Saddest Moment: The couple is ambushed and riddled with bullets at a roadside in what remains one of cinema’s most shocking sequences.